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Turbos Power Engines, Not Toasters

There is no such thing as a turbo-powered hair dryer. Other mechanical fairy tales include the turbo-powered vacuum cleaner, microwave, tricycle and toaster. There is only one "real" turbo-powered engine, and it's found only in a handful of automobiles. Are we clear?

Good, because Mark Ciraldo, an Audi brand specialist at New Country Motors of Greenwich, has a few things to say about turbocharged engines: "They are phenomenal. They're fast, efficient and they are across the board great performers."

Now for a remedial explanation as to what turbo power is. A turbo engine -- which looks something like a snail shell -- is comprised of two turbine wheels positioned on a common shaft in a housing. Essentially it's an intake air-charge compressor that gets driven by an engine's hot and expanding exhaust gasses. Turbos improve what is referred to as "volumetric efficiency," or, how much air the engine can move into the intake and out through the exhaust pipes. By compressing the engine's intake charge (air goes traveling through the combustion chamber), turbos make engines more powerful and significantly more efficient (meaning increased fuel economy). The short story is that this increase of air pressure makes a car go very fast -- and efficiently.

The turbo was patented in 1905 and began appearing in all manner of vehicles -- cars, trucks and airplanes -- in the 1920s. Throughout the last 100 years the popularity of turbo technology has ebbed and flowed. Engineers tend to turn to turbos when fuel prices increase because the technology allows for smaller, more efficient engines with power equal to larger engines that require more fuel.

Clearly it's time for turbocharged engines to make a comeback, and Audis are already several laps ahead on the turbine track. Several models of Audi – including the A4, A5, Q5 and A3 – are sporting hi-tech versions of the engines, which, according to Mark, means that customers drive away with a "win-win" automotive situation. "It's a smart way of incorporating a smaller and greener engine into your vehicle," he says, adding, "And, it's incredibly fun to drive." Win-win, for sure.

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